Profligacy with the taxpayer's hard-earned cash has always been the hallmark of government spending, the amount and beneficiaries dependent on the sacred cow of the day.

With the current Blair administration, the bovine deity is 'communications' -- or as the opposing Conservative Party prefers to label it, "half-truths and deception".

Thus it was described by Tory chairman Doctor Liam Fox after reading the annual report of the COI Communications -- the administrative interface between the British government and its roster of advertising and marketing agencies.

According to the COI, government spending on public information campaigns rose to an eyewatering total of £189.5 million ($341.93m; €281.77m) in the twelve months to March 31 this year -- a nineteen percent year-on-year increase, making it the nation's largest advertiser.

Fulminates Fox: "We now have a government which is believed by voters to be profoundly dishonest. What makes matters worse is that it is using increasing amounts of taxpayers' money to spin its half-truths and deception."

The good doctor may have even more cause for irascibility than he realises, insofar as the COI data does not relate to the whole of government adspend. Some high-spending government departments --- for example, Transport -- have opted to bypass the COI and work directly with advertising and media agencies.

Although British taxpayers have scant cause for comfort on any score, patriots among their number may take comfort from the fact that their spendthrift masters have again ousted reigning world champ Procter & Gamble as the UK's top advertiser.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff